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Have you ever wondered which apps are the most useful for backpackers? Well, that’s what I’m here for. Backpacking is a popular travel style that typically consists of budget-conscious and long-term travellers. They normally skip out on luxury to travel for a longer period, or through more destinations in one trip.
It’s an extremely common travel style for those embarking on a gap year for many reasons, but today we will just look at the specific mobile phone apps that simplify these adventures.
Not all of our listed apps will be suitable for all backpackers considering there are many different backpacking styles, but it’s certainly a great starting point for gap year beginners. Let’s jump in.
Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.
Best accommodation apps for backpackers
Hostels are by far the most common type of accommodation for backpackers. Check out these posts before booking your stay: In this post “Are hostels dangerous?” I give you tips on what to look for when looking for safe properties. Plus, if you’ve never stayed in one before I discuss the disadvantages of staying in a hostel as well as the advantages of staying in a hostel.
Due to their low cost and sociable nature, the majority of backpackers choose to stay in hostels. Hostelworld is the world’s largest hostel comparison platform. You can filter down accommodations by choosing the most important features for you including security, distance from tourist attractions, curfews, price and more.
They have both written lists and map features so you can find a property in the ideal location for your trip needs. Plus, for the sociable backpackers, HostelWorld has followed the steps of other apps by including a chat feature to connect with other travellers staying at your booked accommodation. Once you have booked a place to stay, you will get access to the property chat page and can arrange meetups with other travellers.
Booking.com is one of the top apps for backpackers when there are no hostels around. With this app, you can find a place to stay around the world with ease. You can compare thousands of properties including hostels, hotels, guesthouses, resorts and more. You’ll even get loyalty discount offers the more you book through them.
Plus if you need to filter down the properties to find one with specific features and amenities, you can do that too. There is also a review system to help you which will let you see what the most recent people thought of the property. There are clear lists of available amenities, distances from attractions and star ratings for you to compare.
Check out: Hostels vs hotels: Which is right for you?
Work exchange apps
If you’re not familiar with work exchanges, you can check out: Volunteer Work Stay: What Is It & How Does It Work? In short terms, a work exchange is a volunteer placement where a traveller is connected with a host to work a few hours per day in exchange for free accommodation. It’s an extremely popular and authentic way to enjoy travelling and meeting locals from around the world. Below are two of the best work exchange apps for backpackers.
Workaway has a large collection of hosts and workaway opportunities for travellers to apply to around the world. You can narrow down placements by destination, length of time and even the types of tasks you will be required to do. This way you can see which placements you’re most likely to enjoy and reach out to the host to plan your visit.
You can read and leave reviews of each volunteer placement so you can travel with confidence before arriving and help others understand what to expect. The app has clear navigation and is simple to use, and other than needing a membership, the app is free to access with your login.
Worldpackers is another very popular work exchange platform, you can search through a huge collection of placements on the app as well as communicate with other travellers. You’ll be able to filter down the types of placements available, send messages to the hosts and start planning your trip once you and a host have agreed to work together.
You can see all of the expectations for each placement clearly within each advert so you’ll never be surprised about the jobs you’ll need to help with. The app even has a review system to help you understand what to expect from each opportunity, from other travellers.
Are you a beginner when it comes to travel and backpacking? Check out: Women Backpackers: The Ultimate guide for beginners
Best money/Budget apps
Wise (formerly Transferwise) is a money exchange platform that lets you transfer money between bank accounts in different countries. You can compare the current price of currency exchange values and have multiple ways to make transfers. Bank transfer, debit card, credit card, Google Pay and Swift transfer are just some of the methods you can use to send your money.
Plus, depending on the currency you’re using, you can use an international bank account within Wise to keep multiple currencies and make transferring easier. You can choose to order a debit card for the account too which can save on some fees. I have personally used this company since 2015.
If you’re a budget-conscious backpacker, the Trabee pocket app is perfect. You can create a trip outline and input your desired budget in either local or your home currency. Every day, for each transaction you make you can input into the app which will track your spending.
As well as adding up the total amount of spending each day, you’ll be able to see the total spent over the entire trip. At the bottom of the page inside each trip, you’ll see what you have left to spend before you meet your budget so you can easily keep on track. This can be used offline which makes it easy to keep track even without an internet connection.
Have you ever had to split multiple costs with another person and got frustrated by all the calculations? If so, Split Wise is a fantastic app that allows you to input the cost and number of people each transaction is being split between. For each transaction, you can even enter which person paid at the time and the app will work out the rest.
You can “share” each transaction with others included in the event so that you all know what you individually owe. Perfect for when a group of friends head out on a weekend trip or when backpackers hit the town together. All you need is each participant’s email address to sync the apps together. You’ll find out what each person owes at the
XE currency exchange
If you’re backpacking, you will likely need to exchange money and calculate rates at least once. The XE exchange app shows multiple currency rates at present so you can exchange and send what you need. You’ll be able to see previous rates too so you can see if it’s worth waiting for the rate to improve or not.
You can set alerts for when the rates are better and transfer over 100 currencies to over 200 countries. It really is a straightforward-to-use app with many features surrounding money that can really help you during your travels.
Navigation apps for backpackers
Arguably the most used navigation app around the world is Google Maps. You can find your way around most destinations using Google’s map app without much trouble. The app has directions for walking, driving and public transport on an easy-to-use interface. You can search for restaurants, convenience stores, petrol stations, tourist attractions and more through the location-dependent lists.
You can create lists of saved attractions and points of interest and can easily create a travel itinerary to use later. Plus, if you’re not likely to be outside of mobile phone service, you can download your maps in advance to use offline.
The biggest selling point of the Maps.Me app is that you can use the app offline. This is extremely helpful if you cannot connect to a phone network during your travels. While using the free version of the app, you can download up to 10 maps ahead of time.
One feature that makes this app a little more appealing than the well-known Google Maps for example is that this app is open source. This means it is often updated quicker and more accurately than other platforms because anyone can update the app as opposed to waiting for the few people in charge.
The Rome2Rio app is one of the best platforms for working out the best way to travel between two points. If you’re trying to cover a long distance you may have only considered flying. However, this app will show you other various ways you can complete the journey including bus, train, aeroplane, taxi and boat travel.
The app will give you multiple travel options while showing you estimated costs and once you’ve found the route you like best, you can use the provided links to start booking.
Flight apps for backpackers
Skyscanner is a travel comparison app that allows you to find flights, car rentals, hotels and more. You can easily input the dates you’d like to travel and see what flight itineraries the site gives you. It’s simple to filter down by flight times, and how many stops you’d like to take so you can find the most suitable flight path to suit your schedule and budget.
If you have specific dates to travel but are unsure where to go, the app has an “anywhere” feature. This is where you input the dates and let the app give you recommendations with price estimates from your departure destination. This is a great way to take a spontaneous trip partway through your travels.
Hopper is one of the great apps for backpackers due to being able to track flight times and help you book at the right time. You can do searches for flights on your chosen dates and set an alert, and the app will notify you if the flight path you’re looking at drops in price. The app can also give you estimates on when it believes the prices will go down so you can try to prepare.
Not only can the app help you with flights but it can also help you find great deals on hotel accommodations. You’ll be able to filter the options to find amenities that are important to you which will help narrow down your hotel search.
Best tour and activity apps for backpackers
Viator is one of my favourite activity apps on the market. It’s a simple-to-use platform that allows you to search for tours and activities in your chosen destination. You can input your destination of choice and the date range that you are in the area and the app will give you a list of all activities and tours with availability.
You’ll see all the relevant information you’ll need before booking a tour, including where the tour starts, how long it lasts and anything you need to take with you.
Get Your Guide
Get Your Guide is another highly popular activity and tour app with options around the world. With a modern interface, you can quickly and easily find tours happening at the destinations on your itinerary.
You’ll be able to compare the reviews on each activity left by other travellers to see what they liked or didn’t like about each tour. These reviews, along with the general descriptions and activity details will help you decide which tours you’d like to book.
PackPoint Packing List
Packpoint is an extremely convenient app that makes packing for a trip significantly easier. You simply input the destination you’re heading to along with when you will be there and the app gives you a recommended packing list.
You can include the type of activity or travel style and it will give you slightly more personalised recommendations. This is a great way to pack appropriately for a trip but also to keep track throughout the trip of the things you need to get back home. It will help you to avoid forgetting things.
Best backpacker apps for staying connected
Airalo eSims help keep you connected wherever you may be. The app is really straightforward to use. All you need to do is install the app and then choose whether you want a local, regional or global sim. Make a payment, Download your chosen eSim then you can activate it.
This is a much more convenient method than getting a physical SIM card as you don’t need to worry about collecting one or getting one delivered. However, eSim compatibility is only available on newer model phones.
Best backpacker apps for being social
If you’ve read my post about making friends in a new city, you’ll see many of these apps are listed there too. However, some differences exist between being an expat in a new destination and just passing through as a temporary traveller. Below I have listed some of the best apps to help you be sociable while backpacking on your gap year (or any other trip!).
Travello is a social media platform specifically for travellers. You can create your own profile, upload travel photos with hashtags and connect with other people travelling the world. You can engage in communication with other people to meet up or explore together. There are certain events and groups you can join if they’re happening in the destination you’re in and you can even book travel through the app too! It’s truly useful.
Facebook is a large social network that allows people to keep in contact with their friends and family. However, what’s great about Facebook is the collection of groups that are created in places around the world. If you’re looking to meet other travellers or find some company on an upcoming trip, there are many communities you can join without much trouble. Consider joining some travel groups and type in your chosen destinations to meet people.
Known as the photo app, this is one of the best social apps for backpackers due to how many people use it. When trying to keep in contact with people you meet during your trip, the majority of them will have an Instagram account.
Even those who don’t typically post any photos have access to the highly desired chat feature. It’s a great app for showing your contacts how your trip is going and making new contacts along the way.
MeetUp is a platform where you can find or create groups connected to specific interests based on your location. As the name suggests, it allows people to meet up with others who have interests in common.
If you’re lucky enough to find groups that are already running you can often join and head out to the active events. If you’re unable to find anything that catches your eye, you can instead create your own events for others to join.
Outdoor and hiking apps
AllTrails is one of the best hiking apps out there. If you’re a backpacker who enjoys heading out on outdoor trails then this is the app for you. You can search for trails local to your location and read reviews from other hikers to determine the difficulty level. You’ll see all the stats of each hike with photos uploaded by others so you can see what to expect before heading out.
There is the option to track your route when you complete hikes and save them in your profile for later, and you can even bookmark hikes you like the sound of for future use too. The initial app is free but you can upgrade to get a few extra features.
This app costs £3.99 for lifetime access.
This is another app for the backpacking enthusiast. If you enjoy hiking or exploring the outdoors, you’ve likely come across a great view and wondered what peaks or mountains you can see. Well, with the PeakFinder app, you can use your GPS location to determine which peaks you can see in a 360-degree radius from where you are standing. This makes it much easier to understand the local landscape surrounding all your favourite views.
Final Thoughts on backpackers apps
That’s our list of useful apps for backpackers that will help you along your travel journey. Each app is beneficial in a different way depending on your travel style and your plans throughout your trip.
Are there any other backpacker apps that you think I should add? Let me know!